Small-business columnist Rhonda Abrams has come up with solutions to the long waits, carry-on limits, and other new air-travel realities.
I'm a changed woman. I used to frantically rush to the airport at the last moment, desperately hoping the plane would be delayed so I wouldn't miss it. But since September 11, I've changed my ways.
The new travel realities mean I have to arrive at the airport at least an hour before a domestic flight. I also have to wait in more lines, show photo ID repeatedly, and lift luggage up-and-down for security checks. All this requires more patience and strength than I naturally possess.
Since I regularly give speeches to conventions and corporations, I have to fly frequently. So I thought I'd figure out how I -- and other businesspeople -- can adapt. My goals:
Work while waiting
Eliminate checked luggage for short trips
Make my carry-on stuff easier to carry, lift, open
Meet new carry-on limits
Not spend a fortune
I set about finding solutions, and here's what I came up with:
1. Luggage. Airline security now strictly enforces carry-on limits of one bag plus one briefcase or purse. So I needed something that could carry a lot, fit through x-ray machines, was light-weight with wheels. The one problem, however, is that I wanted a garment bag. Not easy.
I tried something new -- a carry-on with a removable garment folder, from Eagle Creek. I got their 22-inch Latitude bag, which meets most carry-on requirements if you don't overpack, since it expands. Along with the Latitude, I used Eagle Creek's Full-Length Folder, which is part of their "Pack-it System." It's a garment bag that folds in three, so you can put it inside a carry-on.
Frankly, when I got the Folder, I didn't think I was going to like it, but I was happily surprised. This is a piece I'll use regularly. Other storage pieces, such as Eagle Creek's Cubes, kept my stuff well-organized, and allowed me to pack much more. You could use these with carry-on bags from other suppliers, as well.
2. Briefcase/Purse. Since this is the second -- and final -- carry-on you're allowed, I wanted to be able to get as much into this item as possible. The answer was a "briefcase" that also served as my computer case, purse, and desktop (for use in the waiting area).
I used Eagle Creek's Latitude Office briefcase. It slips over the handle of their luggage (and most others), so I didn't have to carry it. It had lots of pockets and features. I might also have chosen one of the back-pack briefcases from Brenthaven. Some of these provided a virtual desk, as well as giving serious protection for computers. I liked the hidden pocket on the outside that makes it easy to retrieve tickets and photo ID without making them easy targets for pick-pockets. Their size, however, seems better suited for men and they carried a heftier price tag than the Eagle Creek.
3. Power. If I'm going to wait, I'm going to work, so I need my computer and cell phone. The most important tricks:
Fully charge your batteries the night before.
Bring the electrical cords and look for a seat in the waiting area near an electrical outlet.
Buy an airline power cord adaptor. Some airlines have electrical power available during flights, but you have to bring your adaptor cord. These cost $100 and are available from your computer maker, electronics retailers, or www.roadwarrior.com.
Increase your cell phone service contract. Before you go, contact your service provider, and change your plan for a month or two to get more minutes or free long-distance. You can change back when you return.
4. Short-cuts. If you have to check luggage, it's much, much faster to use curbside check-in. Sure, it costs a couple dollars for a tip to the porter, but you'll save a lot of time. Wear comfortable, slip-on shoes; you'll have to remove them for security. Don't take early morning flights; do you really want to leave your home at 5 am? Smile and say thank you -- the hassles are easier to handle when you do.
So join me in my new attitude in travel -- calm, relaxed, productive. I've changed my ways -- at least for now!
Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Organizer, Wear Clean Underwear, and The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. To receive Rhonda's free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com.